5 innovative job search strategies

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With the unemployment rate at the highest level in decades, its takes more than just a great resume to land a job. It takes a great job search strategy.

These five workers ditched the traditional job-hunting regimen — mailing out resumes and cover letters — in favor of more innovative methods. Try one of these job search techniques when looking to land your next gig:

Name: Marian Schembari

Old gig: Freelance writing in New York and Connecticut
New gig: Associate publicist at Jane Wesman Public Relations in New York

Smart strategy: Instead of responding to an employer’s job posting, she posted an ad for herself on Facebook, the social networking site, and used its microtargeting capability to home in on people who were most likely to offer her a job.

Her ad asked, “I want to work for Harper Collins, can you help?” Anyone identifying themselves as a company employee saw it on their page. Readers could click on a link that directed them to her resume. Though she wasn’t able to find work with Harper Collins, she did connect with 100 people in two weeks, including someone who was able to offer her a job.

Words of wisdom: Recognize that the best way to get a job isn’t always to apply for it directly. “I wasted so much time writing perfect cover letters and sending them into the Internet abyss,” she says. “You have to get out there in a way that people will come to you, not the other way around.”

Name: Nick Stowe

Old gig: Engineering studies student at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa.
New gig: A consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton now assigned as a contractor to the National Guard IT team in McLean, Va.

Smart strategy: While his peers were slogging through weeks-long internships, Stowe lined up externships, including one at Booz Allen, where he shadowed employees for two or three days. Employers got to know him better than they would in a short interview, and he wasn’t making a big commitment if the work wasn’t a good fit. He snared an internship as a result of the externship and then landed a permanent job.

Words of wisdom: You don’t need to be a student to line up an externship. “I think smaller firms are especially open to the idea of taking time out of their day to show you what they do,” he says. “When you show them you want to get an in-depth look at what they do, they really seem to like that.”

Name: Brian Singleton

Old gig: Canvasser for Greenpeace International in Boston.
New gig: Automobile sales consultant for Empire Hyundai, Fall River, Mass.

Smart strategy: Not content with poring over job-hunting sites, Singleton turned to the microblogging service Twitter to see if he could find the latest job postings. He also did real-time Twitter searches by position and location (“executive assistant, Boston”) to pull up recent tweets.

After following users who posted about new job openings, he found one tweet mentioning a job posting he hadn’t seen before. He visited the company’s Web site, applied and got the gig.

Words of Wisdom: Used wisely, Twitter can lead to real job opportunities. “I used to use Twitter only for my friends, but when I started looking for a job, I started accepting other followers and I stopped posting personal stuff like pictures,” he says. “You have to be a bit more careful, but when you open yourself up, it can be really helpful.”

Name: Anthony Badillo

Old gig: Integration manager in the brokerage division at Merrill Lynch in New York
New gig: Financial planning assistant in Jersey City, N.J.

Smart strategy: With the help of the career center at his alma mater, Badillo tapped the knowledge of alumni. One fellow alumnus told Badillo to do research about the companies he was applying to, take time to determine the best career choice and to keep a job-hunting spreadsheet.

By using the spreadsheet, he had quick access to everyone’s contact information and could quickly find the details he needed about people and jobs, instead of keeping track of dozens of business cards, e-mail messages and written notes.

Words of wisdom: In a tight job market, getting all the details right matters, and a spreadsheet helps. “(It allowed me to have) a much more personalized approach and whenever communication would occur I could check the spreadsheet and know exactly where we left off.”

Name: Lauren Gard

Old gig: Legal assistant for Scott Cole & Associates, a class-action employment law firm in Oakland, Calif.
New gig: Client manager at the public relations firm Infinite Public Relations in San Francisco

Smart strategy: Gard met her current boss a decade ago when she worked at a legal newspaper. He had often made public relations pitches to her for possible stories. When Gard was ready to make the move out of journalism, they reconnected and he offered her a PR job. Now she’s the one pitching stories to reporters.

Words of wisdom: Mine your past for unexpected networking opportunities, and that doesn’t just mean former colleagues. “Anyone that you come into contact with or get along with can be a genuine help to you,” says Gard.